Outdoor adventure experiences for vulnerable adolescents: what are the benefits?

Helen SkouterisIf we keep having this top down effect where ‘mum says’, ‘school says’ and ‘society says’, we’re not really making our young people active agents of change.

On an annual basis, thousands of adolescents participate in outdoor adventure programs that usually aim to connect these young people with their peers and nature.

When Associate Professor of Psychology Helen Skouteris started her research into these programs she found that it crossed over different areas of study such as socio-emotional development, cognitive development and obesity and weight gain. She also found that the benefits of participating in outdoor adventure programs are not limited to vulnerable adolescents.

Benefits of participation in outdoor activity programs include gaining a sense of belonging and growing an understanding the social environment. We can see how these would be hugely beneficial to vulnerable adolescents who are also enabled, through these programs, to achieve social goals, build trusting and meaningful relationships, meet more people and learn to control anger.

Hiking on the Gippsland Wilderness Program
Young people on the Gippsland Wilderness Program are encouraged to challenge their boundaries.

There are so many skills to be gained from this type of participation, including cognitive (e.g. problem solving), emotional (e.g. forming relationships) and physical (e.g. canoeing or hiking).

The outdoor environment pushes young people out of their comfort zones and allows them to take on responsibility and become an active agent of change for their own wellbeing and that is hugely beneficial to all adolescents!

Canoeing on the Gippsland Wilderness ProgramCanoeing on the Gippsland Wilderness Program
Canoeing on the Gippsland Wilderness Program

Post written by youth blogger from SYN Media.

A Vision for Young Australians in the 21st Century

Jan Owen AM

 

Courage.
Imagination.
Will.
3.1 million young Australians have this.

“it is indisputable that we’re living in a world that’s changing”

 

 

CEO of the Foundation for Young Australians (FYA), Jan Owens AM explains how young Australians today have much of the attitude, beliefs and tools required to thrive and excel in life and work.

However, they still require strong support from key organisations and their communities.

Drawing from her theory of the Where’s Wally Effect (or, as some media put it, the ‘mental health epidemic’) Jan raised the question of whether due to the changing world we’re losing who we are, who we’re identifying as and where we fit in society.

Imagine a world where everyone’s ‘Wally’; we’re all the same, we all blend in and we’ve lost our unique point of difference.

However, though the 21st century may be creating a more “blended in” society, studies have shown that in fact, young people now more than ever connect to their families, stay at home longer, have a closer circle of friends and live both local and global lives simultaneously.

It’s also shown that young people now have the attitude to adapt well to changing environments and that adults are projecting their own inabilities onto them.

FYA works with hundreds of thousands of children all around the world. In a movement to “create a world class outward-looking education system, one that connects young people to the real world”, Jan presented the idea to “future-proof our young people”.

Hoping to generate job creators not job seekers within our youth, Jan brought to the table the fact that young people will have 15-20 jobs in their lifetime, with 10 of the top jobs available to them today having not existed in 2004.

But it’s not only jobs that Jan wants to help encourage throughout the 21st century youth. There is also the movement to encourage the “reimagining of what volunteering looks like” among young people and organisations.

One such organisation is Young People Without Borders, a program that enables young people to volunteer just one day at a time. The motivation for this? That “over time we will see tens of thousands of young people volunteering who wouldn’t have”.

Jan Owen is “optimistic about the youth” and believes “they have the skills and attitudes to shape the places they live in and the drive to make change”.

If there is one piece of advice she’s willing to spread, it’s that she “encourages you to be optimistic too”.

You can follow Jan on twitter at @JanOwenAM or @FYA_org_au

“There is a new generation of young people in this country…young people that are leading movements for change”

By: SYN Media blogger

Youth Report – The Good Childhood Conference (Part One)

 

Youth facilitators at Conference
CREATE Youth facilitators at Conference

In a series of blog posts we will be reflecting on our new understandings of youth participation after The Good Childhood Conference, as well as some of the feedback we received from conference delegates. We will also report back on practical elements of our youth participation strategy.

Below are some of our initial reflections on the experience, specifically the usefulness of the youth consultations and social media in preparation for the conference.

In regards to youth participation at the conference, we aimed to actively include young people in the conversation about what sustains a good childhood and how we best support those who have not experienced a good childhood. (For more information on our approach, check out our Principles of Youth Participation on the Berry Street Childhood Institute website).

As you may remember, three youth consultants worked with us to engage in a broader consultation with young people about what would create a conference that was engaging and attractive to young people.

Over a two month period the youth consultants met with approximately 80 young people and gathered considerable feedback about what young people would or wouldn’t like.

Outcomes of the Youth Consultations:

  • Received feedback about what young people would or wouldn’t like at a conference,
  • Promoted the event in face-to-face sessions with young people,
  • Provided three youth consultants with workplace training,
  • Collected data to drive our youth-friendly activities,
  • Provided motivation for the youth consultants to volunteer at the conference, displaying increased leadership qualities – they also brought their friends,
  • Developed/improved relationships with community groups, schools, youth groups and clients of Berry Street,
  • Provided a barometer of youth interest in the conference.

“The youth consultation process has been a positive but challenging experience for me. It put me out of my comfort zone and has helped me improve on my networking and organisation skills.” Laura, Youth Consultant

Promoting Youth Participation
During the youth consultations young people told us that they like to communicate via social media. In the lead up to the conference an 8 week social media strategy was planned in order to promote numerous speaker profiles, interesting topics and reminders about the conference on Twitter and Facebook. Information about youth scholarships offered was posted regularly.

To provide some idea, detailed below are the most popular (shared and/or ‘Liked’) Facebook posts on the Berry Street Childhood Institute page in the lead up to the conference:
789 – Muriel Bamblett August 2013
452 – Youth scholarships announced September 2013
419 – Conference post after day one October 2013
165 – Launch of the conference program August 2013
158 – Kaff-iene the street artist August 2013

Youth participation was also publicised on the conference website, here on the conference blog and in the program. Positive feedback was received about the information available.

Stay tuned for more reflections on youth participation in the coming weeks…

The time has arrived – let the Conference begin!

Follow the Good Childhood Conference live on Twitter!
Follow the Good Childhood Conference live on Twitter!

Those of us who are organising The Good Childhood Conference are feeling a mixture of excitement and anxiety (to be honest, terror) as our conference becomes a reality with pre-workshops on today and the conference starting tomorrow, Thursday 11 October.

Now if only we had listened to one of our keynote speakers, Robert Hart from the Resilience Institute, and “ejected stress” and “sustained our energy”!

The pre-conference workshops are seeing three of our conference speakers engaging participants in sessions about drumming, resilience and client case studies respectively.

This breadth of topics reflects the diversity of sessions we’ll be offering at the conference itself over the next two days.

So if you are attending the conference, we are really looking forward to your participation and hope you will join us in the conversation about a good childhood.

We encourage you to follow the seminars and discussions on social media, whether you are able to attend the conference or not.

Young people from SYN Media will be reporting on what they are hearing from our presenters on Twitter so you will be able to keep up with the content and respond to the key themes. The conference hash tag and key accounts are:

  1. #GCConf, follow this hash tag to see all Tweets relevant to the conference and each seminar,
  2. @ChildhoodInst, Tweeting highlights from the SYN Media Tweeters attending each seminar,
  3. @LiveSYN, covering the conference keynotes and seminars live.

After the conference we will be constantly updating this blog with posts written on most of the keynotes, seminars and worshops.

This way, we can let you know in more detail about what our presenters had to say about a good childhood – how it can be sustained and what we need to do for those who have not had a good childhood.

Again, we would be really pleased if you could comment on the blog so we know what you are thinking.

Here’s to a successful and dynamic conference!

Introducing Maddie Witter, Speaker at The Good Childhood Conference on Foster change, building hope

Reading without limits
Reading without limits by Maddie Witter

These four strategies are:

1. Fostering hope in each young person by teaching students to build actionable pathways.
2. Developing stamina so students can persist through difficult tasks for long periods of time.
3. Determining where each student lies on their own individual developmental continuum and crafting lessons that allow all students to learn and continue on their continuum.
4. Giving students feedback daily and building in opportunities for young people to self-assess throughout a lesson.

Imagine a classroom where all students are engaged in highly rigorous and fun learning every single day. That classroom can be yours starting tomorrow.

You don’t have to be a reading specialist to pick up Maddie’s book, Reading Without Limits.

Anyone who wants to dramatically improve reading achievement will find helpful suggestions.

You might be a teacher whose students have mastered decoding, and you are ready to build their comprehension. You might be a high school science teacher whose students aren’t yet reading on level with deep critical thinking. Or you might be a parent or counselor who wants to hook an adolescent into the joy of reading.

This book is for you.

Along with hundreds of ready-to-use teaching strategies, Reading Without Limits comes with a supplemental website where teachers can download even more resources for free.

Reading Without Limits is the first book offered in the KIPP Educator Series. KIPP, or the Knowledge is Power Program, began in 1994 in the United States.

Currently, there are 125 KIPP schools in 20 states and the District of Columbia serving nearly 40,000 students climbing the mountain to and through college.

Youth participation doesn’t come with instructions

Youth participation needs to be creative, flexible & responsive.
Youth participation needs to be creative, flexible & responsive.

Let’s be honest.

In the youth sector, the education sector and the welfare sector, we are often immersed in adult conversation. Even when we consult, hold focus groups and work alongside young people, the majority of the time we are adults talking to other adults.

At Berry Street, like other organisations across the country, we are committed to raising the bar in youth participation. We believe that young people have a key role in improving the lives of Australian children in the 21st Century.

But how do we support young people to take on this role?

And how can we ensure that young people are getting their fair say about what sustains a good childhood?

In the lead up to The Good Childhood Conference, the staff at the Berry Street Childhood Institute have been working to ensure that young people get their say.

We know that we don’t have all the answers.

We know that holding a national conference that brings adults and young people together will provide many lessons in youth participation. And we know we won’t stop there.

We have been buoyed by the interest of other organisations, and the overwhelming support from individuals (young and old) wanting the opportunity to come together.

Like the many organisations that we have taken inspiration from, we look forward to sharing our experiences with you.

From the youth engagement desk,
Katrina Stone